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Is now a good time to plan a trip to the beach?

July 28, 2020
5 min read
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The most exotic destination you visited in the last few months may have been the neighborhood park, or your balcony, backyard or fire escape. Maybe you're really lucky and have access to a nice, deep soaking tub or even a pool.

But at this point in the summer, you may be ready to venture out again -- even if only for a socially distanced nearcation. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, your original summer vacation plans likely all washed down the drain, and a popular back-up plan is heading to the beach. Maybe this year it will be a local stretch of sand instead of a far-flung island getaway, but it's still a beach all the same.

So, given all the risks and rewards -- is now a good time to plan a trip to the beach?

(Photo by Shelby Soblick for The Points Guy)

Related: Should I travel? Advice for the coronavirus outbreak

Should you go to the beach now?

In most parts of the U.S., shelter-in-place orders have expired. If you aren't under quarantine you can theoretically head to the beach. There are exceptions if you're hoping to travel out of state, of course, as there are many interstate travel restrictions, but if you can get to a beach (or even a lake with a lovely shoreline), you're likely allowed to do so.

Since a beach is always outside, and generally breezy, experts typically don't consider this an especially high-risk destination. Since masks aren't worn on most beaches (though check your local regulations), however, social distancing is extremely important and very relevant to the overall risk level.

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Avoid crowded beaches

Just as national parks and surrounding towns have become very popular and, as a result, often over-crowded destinations, so have many beaches.

Overcrowding is what caused some beaches to close earlier this spring, and that pattern could repeat if visitation gets out of hand, especially in locations experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

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We've also seen some beaches close down to prevent overcrowding. During the Fourth of July holiday, for example, multiple public beaches across Texas were closed. Assuming the coronavirus will still be a concern come Labor Day, we won't be surprised to see beaches closed in some destinations.

But, even if the beach is open, it may not be the safe, relaxing getaway you were hoping for if it's slammed with visitors.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 19: Large crowds visit the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn on July 19, 2020 in New York City. Much of the East Coast is experiencing usually warm weather with high's in the 90's and a heat index that makes it feel over 100 degrees. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Large crowds visit the beach at Coney Island in Brooklyn on July 19, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Plan ahead

Research whether you'll need an advance reservation to visit your beach of choice. Sometimes, it isn't the beach itself that will require a reservation, but instead the nearby parking lots. If the beach in a state park, it's more likely you'll need to make a reservation in advance. Even natural swimming holes are requiring reservations in some locations.

Screenshot from New Hampshire State Parks

If there's an easily accessible and relatively empty beach near you, just scan for potential crowds before setting up your beach towels and chairs. Just travel light so you can be ready to pack up quickly if the beach becomes dangerously busy.

While I'm sure there are exceptions, most public bathrooms probably won't live up to any COVID-19 cleaning standards. You may also find that other supporting concessions and vendors (think: beachfront restaurants, visitor centers) have not reopened, so come to the beach prepared to be fully self-sufficient — or keep the visit short enough that you don't need any additional facilities.

Related: How to book the perfect beach house rental

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

A day spent outside at the beach can be a great cure for the quarantine blues if you plan in advance, know the rules for your area, make any necessary reservations and have a plan if the beach gets too crowded for comfort.

Featured image by Getty Images

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees